NORMAN — Having been blessed with wonderful parents (who are still married to each other), I don’t know what it’s like to be abused, neglected or abandoned. I can’t imagine how it must feel to be taken from my home, no matter how bad it is, and be placed in the care of someone I’ve never met. Sadly, hundreds of children in Cleveland County know all too well what that’s like. For various reasons these children are in the custody of the state Department of Human Services. That won’t change during the holidays. For 22 years, the Citizens Advisory Board of the Cleveland County Child Welfare Unit — with the help of county residents — has been making the holidays brighter for these children through its Secret Santa program. The first year, the board helped 69 children. This year, it expects 800 children to need the Secret Santa program. Not 800 children from families living all over Oklahoma, but 800 children from our community. "This year, our list is 650 kids and normally grows 20 percent by Dec. 25,” said Mike Hobson, Secret Santa chairman. Hobson said the philosophy behind Secret Santa is that at least once, a child should be able to ask for what he wants and get it, no matter how silly the request may seem. That isn’t possible without the help of the community. Children have prepared their wish lists, and they are available to those willing to help. Lists are available in three age groups — 0 to 4, 5 to 11 and 12 to 18. Individuals or groups can take a list for one child (or a set of siblings) and buy the items on those lists. Because of confidentiality, only the first name, age and sex of the child will be given. Those who don’t want to shop can donate money for gifts. The average amount spent on each child ranges from $50 to $100, with less being spent on younger children and more being spent on older children. On Dec. 16, volunteer shoppers will buy remaining items on the lists using money donated from members of the community. On Dec. 17, all the gifts will be displayed at the Cleveland County Fairgrounds for the foster families to pick up. Everyone can stop by to see the display from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dec. 17 to see the extent of its generosity. Anyone willing to shop, donate money or volunteer should call 321-5999.